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Authors: Jenn Black

Sole Witness

BOOK: Sole Witness
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SOLE
WITNESS

Jenn Black

 

Contents

CHAPTER ONE
..
3

CHAPTER TWO
..
16

CHAPTER THREE
..
30

CHAPTER FOUR
..
57

CHAPTER FIVE
..
79

CHAPTER SIX
..
99

CHAPTER SEVEN
..
112

CHAPTER EIGHT
.
127

CHAPTER NINE
..
141

CHAPTER TEN
..
156

CHAPTER
ELEVEN
..
169

CHAPTER TWELVE
..
181

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
..
189

CHAPTER FOURTEEN
..
196

CHAPTER FIFTEEN
..
204

CHAPTER SIXTEEN
..
212

UNMASKING THE SPY
..
217

 

CHAPTER
ONE

 

Florida, Present Day

Monday, March 10, 5:30pm

 

When Gwen Stefani’s voice blared
from the passenger seat, Lori didn’t have to check the display to know it was her
best friend calling—Again.

Lori gripped the wheel with one
hand and flipped open the phone with the other, tucking it behind one ear so
she could keep her hands at 10 and 2. Spring Break traffic was nothing to mess
around with.

“Hi, Kimber.”

“Well? Are you there yet?”
squealed the familiar voice.

Lori indulged herself with an
affectionate eye-roll. “Maybe I’d get there faster if you’d stop calling.”

“I’m just so excited! You’re the
best friend ever!” Kimberley shrieked.

Ear ringing, Lori adjusted the
speaker volume before she went deaf.

“Kimber, chill out. Autographs
aren’t that exciting.”

“Whatever. You’re just jaded
because you’re so used to
signing
them.”

Lori tapped her brakes in warning
to an overeager tailgater. “I just don’t understand the attraction.”

“He’s a God!”

Lori snorted. “Are we still
talking about T2? From the T2 Crew?”

“He’s hot! I love him!” Kimber
bubbled.

“How can you love him? He’s never
met you.”

“He’ll come around.” Unparalleled
optimism radiated from the receiver.

Before responding, Lori blasted
her horn as a dozen teenagers overflowing a convertible sliced into her lane,
nearly taking off her front bumper in the process.

“Until then, you’ll fawn over his
signed albums?”

“Exactly.”

“I have no idea why I’m enabling
this fantasy,” Lori grumbled.

“Because you love me. And because
you can. First off, you’re famous.”

Lori changed lanes to let another
would-be NASCAR driver rocket past, with his windows down and stereo blaring.

“I’m not famous. Most of the
people who recognize my face don’t even know my name.”

“Secondly,” Kimberley continued
as if Lori hadn’t spoken, “you’re friends.”

“I’m not his friend, Kimber,”
Lori reminded her for the tenth time.

“Come on. You starred in his very
first music video to hit number one.”

“I guess.” And Lori would’ve
starred in the back of his limo, too, if she’d let him have his way.

Tommy Turner was a conceited
lech, and Lori had her doubts about entering his domain, even for Kimberley.
But what could she do?

“Come on, Lori,” Kimberley
wheedled. “You know you’re gonna do it—you’re probably halfway to the studio by
now. If you can surf waves during tropical storms for a photo shoot, then you
can get a teensy weensy signature for your best friend.”

Lori stepped on her brakes as
traffic slowed for a red light.

This was the happiest Kimberley
had sounded in weeks. In fact, this was the first whole day she’d gone without
crying since her long-term boyfriend had kicked her out and she’d shown up on
Lori’s porch with a cat, a trash bag full of clothes, and two copies of T2’s
platinum debut album.

“Yeah, yeah.” But T2 wasn’t there
to pinch her rear when she was hanging ten on a surfboard. “I’ll get his
autograph if it kills me. In the meantime, relax. I’ll bring home ice cream if
you keep that cat out of my– Can you hold on a sec? Someone’s beeping. Be right
back.”

Trying to watch the road and her
cell phone at the same time, Lori quickly flipped to the other line and slapped
the phone back to her ear.

“This is Lori.”

“Lori, baby,” came the voice
teenage girls screamed for the world over. “Are you still coming?”

“Tommy.” Great. Why did the world
suddenly develop a complex about this autograph? “Yes, I’m almost there. I’ll–”

“Just making sure, baby. I’ve
been waiting for you.” As usual, Tommy’s breathy voice gave her the creeps.

“I know. Give me about five
minutes or so. This traffic–”

“I knew you wanted me. After
waiting two years, what’s five more minutes?” The invitation in his tone
dripped with forced sexuality.

Lori gritted her teeth. “Tommy, I
told you I was coming for you to autograph–”

“Autographs, etchings, it’s all
the same to me, baby. I’m pouring us some champagne. Oh—I hear you at the
door.  Come on in. You don’t have to knock.”

“No, I’m still–”

Click.

Lori blinked. What a weirdo. If
it weren’t her duty as best friend to cheer Kimberley up at all costs, Tommy
Turner’s studio was the last place on earth she’d be going.

“Kimber, you still there?”

“Yes. Who was it? Was it T2?”

“Yeah.” What was she, psychic?

“Ohhh,” Kimberley breathed. “He’s
amazing. See if he’ll go out with me. If you’ll double with us, I’m sure he’d
go.”

“I’m busy that night.”

A squeak of outrage burst from
the phone. “Lori…”

“Don’t even
think
of
rebounding with Tommy. He’s a bad idea. Trust me.”

Kimberley’s gasp spoke volumes.
“Did you…?”

“No! Absolutely not.” Lori might
not be book smart, but she could smell trouble.

“Just checking. Anyways, I think
he’d like me if he got to know me.”

“Everybody likes you, Kimber.”

“Not Marco.” Sudden static
crackled from the phone. “He practically shoved me out the door.”

“His loss. He’s a loser and he
doesn’t count. Don’t you dare cry over him. We’ll celebrate your newfound
singleness as soon as I get home. Look on the bright side—now you can be with
any man you want.”

“Even T2?”

Lori grimaced. “Except him. I
want someone with charm. Maybe even a brain. Look, I’ve got to go. I’m pulling
in now. See you in a little bit?”

“Good luck!”

Snapping the cell phone closed,
Lori tossed it back on the passenger seat. It was going to take both hands and
all her concentration to parallel-park her big boat anywhere—if she could even
find a space.

Lori cruised around the block
three times before an old lady in her station wagon pulled away from her spot
by the corner. Perfect. She wouldn’t even have to back in.

After parking, she glanced at her
reflection in the rear-view mirror. She’d been hasty with the mascara and now
clumpy brown eyelashes framed her trademark green eyes. She bared her teeth. At
least she didn’t have lipstick marks. Or parsley. Who invented parsley?

Time had run out on the meter, so
Lori fished in her jean pockets for a quarter. Hopefully she wouldn’t need all
twelve minutes.

Taking a last fond look at her
bubblegum-pink 1971 Mustang, she jogged the short distance to the studio.
Wearing a halter-top and tennis shoes had been smart. Running in the Florida
heat was not. Note to self—leave the exercise for the nice, air-conditioned
gym.

By the time she got to the door,
Lori’s entire body was encased in a fine sheen of sweat. Oh well. No one to
impress here.

She raised her hand to jab at the
doorbell before she remembered Tommy asked her to come right in without
knocking. Maybe he was still in the back, recording music with the guys. Or,
knowing him, making music with one of his groupies.

Opening the door, she called out
his name just as two deafening blasts echoed through the building. What the
heck was that? Gunshots?

Without thinking, Lori turned on
her toes and ran back to her car, leaving the studio door to slam shut on its
own. She slid behind the wheel in record time, peeling away from the curb and
barreling down the road for several blocks.

Once her racing heart slowed down
enough to let her think, Lori pulled over to the side of the street and peeled
her white fingers from the wheel.

The silent cell phone seemed to
stare at her from the passenger seat. She snatched it up, flipped it open, and
dialed.

“911. What’s your emergency?”

The words tumbled from her mouth.
“I heard loud noises at Tommy Turner’s studio on 6
th
Avenue. Maybe
gunshots.”

“Is anyone injured?”

Lori closed her eyes. She was a
supermodel, not a superhero. She hadn’t stuck around to deflect any bullets or
interview any gun-wielding assailants.

Hopefully she wouldn’t live to
regret it.

*          *          *

Listen to them.

The two college-age girls
trailing Amber to the parking lot were twittering birds, their high-pitched
laughter scraping at her ears for the hundredth time that day. If she were Bank
Manager instead of Account Manager, she'd fire them, just so she wouldn't have
to hear their stupid stories and wild cackling.

She’d be tempted to put them out
of her misery if she hadn't left her Glock in the trunk of her car.

“Buh-bye,” called the newest teller, the one with
the fake tan and the giant rock of an engagement ring she forced under
customers’ noses at every opportunity. Amber had forgotten her name on purpose.

“Yeah, Amber. ’Bye,” shrilled the teller’s hyper
sidekick, Judy. That one stuffed herself into her oversized sorority sweatshirt
every day. Not because of the typical “Frozen Tundra” setting on Florida air
conditioning units, but because she thought it made her look cool. In reality,
she just looked red-faced and sweaty, and had to spend the first on-the-clock
hour in the bathroom fixing her makeup.

Amber turned just in time to see
her shake a fat little finger.

“Drive safe,” Judy called out as
she struggled out of her sweater.

Moron. “You, too,”
Amber muttered and schooled her features into her well-practiced ‘smiling
kindly’ face. She retrieved her crumpled pack of Virginia Slims from the bottom
of her purse and knocked out one wrinkled cigarette.

“See you in the morning,” they
chorused.

Since it was only Monday, she’d
see them the next four mornings. Joy.

The giggling girls flopped into a
turquoise Dodge Neon, slammed the doors, and waved wildly as they drove off.
They’d asked more than once if Amber wanted to ‘ride share’ with them.

BOOK: Sole Witness
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